Squat while you poop, don't sit!

Squat while you poop, don't sit!

In the movie Piku, you might have heard about why the Indian toilet is better. Here's the science behind it.

Written by Pavitra Sampath |Updated : August 23, 2016 6:00 PM IST

Read this in HINDI

Today most of us use a sitting or western style toilet. But this method -- that has now become the most normal way to pass motions -- is harming you more than you know.

Consider this, when a baby is born the child's parents often push the child's knees towards her chest, while she is lying down to help her pass motion. As a fetus and even as a baby, children tend to naturally sit in the squatting position. This is the natural way our body was designed to help us pass motion.

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So if you are wondering what all the fuss is about, here are some reasons you should probably switch to the squatting position when you visit the washroom.

How the squatting posture is healthier:

anatomy of the colon

As humans we are naturally inclined to squat while performing tasks, resting or passing motion. This is because our bodies are made so that we can defecate easily and without pressuring our organs in the squatting position.

Here's what happens within your body when you squat to defecate:

This explanation may be a bit confusing, so to understand it visualise the steps and refer to the image above. Ready? Here's how it works.

  • Imagine yourself bending your knees towards your chest, just as you would while in the foetal position or if you were to do a yoga asana. You will be able to feel pressure on your abdomen and tummy, right? Well, this is exactly what happens when you squat to pass motions. Since your legs are bent at the hips and your knees are touching your chest in this position, most of the work is done by gravity. Also, your torso (upper body) presses against your abdomen (externally) and colon (internally) stimulating your body to start the process of moving waste materials to your colon, rectum and finally your anus.
  • As your right leg pushes your cecum, and its contents upwards, into the ascending colon, your left thigh lifts your sigmoid colon. Both these actions help move the fecal matter in your intestine and prevent the waste from leaking into your appendix or other places it isn't supposed to be in.
  • Your sigmoid colon has a natural kink (at the base) to prevent incontinence or the accidental evacuation of faeces. Lifting the sigmoid colon helps open up the kink allowing the passage of waste into the rectum.
  • This position also helps properly seal the ileocecal valve (present between your colon and small intestine) which prevents the back flow of waste and creates pressure within the colon -- which also acts as a natural laxative.
  • Squatting also relaxes the puborectalis muscle (present at the junction of the rectum and anus) which in turn allows complete excretion of waste.

How sitting on the commode can be bad for you

Sitting is an unnatural posture for us while passing motion. This is because the body was not made to function in this position. In fact sitting on the toilet chokes the entire flow of waste. Your sigmoid colon is not raised, which does not relax the kink. Your puborectalis muscle is also not relaxed, choking the rectum, leading to the retention of waste in your body making you feel uncomfortable.

Apart from this, in the sitting position we tend to apply pressure by breathing in and pushing our diaphragm downwards, which is extremely harmful. Not only does this action weaken the puborectalis muscle but it also leads to the leaking of stool into adjoining parts like the appendix. It can also affect your heart if you apply too much pressure.

Also, in the sitting posture your ileocecal valve tends to leak making it difficult for your bowels to generate the required pressure to defecate. All this leads to a variety of ailments.

Benefits of squatting vs. sitting while passing motion

Prevents the formation of haemorrhoids: According to research published in the journal Diseases of the Colon and Rectum[1], the bend between the anus and the rectum was partially straightened out when squatting. This reduces the pressure on the muscles and helps prevent the occurrence of haemorrhoids.

Beats constipation: If you have been constipated for a while now, try squatting when you want to pass stools. According to scientists who published a study in the journal Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms (LUTS) [2] the squatting position not only makes defecation easier, but also ensures complete bowel movement.

Helps ease labour in pregnant women: The muscles around the pelvis, hips and vagina need to strong and flexible to reduce the damage caused by the pressure applied during labour. This is where squatting comes into the picture. Not only does it help ease constipation during pregnancy, but the position also helps strengthen these muscles and helps ease labour. As per a study published by the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecologyof the British Commonwealth [3] squatting increases the available area in the birth canal by 20 to 30% making birthing that much easier. You may also like to read about these 9 practical tips to help easy a natural delivery.

Helps complete faecal evacuation to prevent colon cancer: The two have a correlation. A study published in the Epidemiology Journal found that people who felt constipated frequently were four times more likely to develop colon cancer than those who did not suffer from the condition. When you do not pass all the waste, the pressure and water tends to make it stick to the wall of the colon. Once coated with waste, the cells of the colon tend to suffocate and multiply unnaturally leading to the formation of a cancerous growth.

If you are not yet convinced that squatting is better than sitting, then take a look at some of the studies, which show how the sitting position while passing motions can lead to ailments such as anal incontinence, weakening of the pelvic floor muscles, prostate cancer and even female sexual problems.

Want to make the switch?

If you do want to make the switch from a sitting toilet seat to a squatting one, there are a few toilet accessories that can help you achieve the squatting position while you are using your western toilet. Also, you must remember that squatting may be difficult for you initially, but with time it will get easier, so keep at it.

Image source: Shutter Stock

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[1] Tagart RE. The anal canal and rectum: their varying relationship and its effect on anal continence. Dis Colon Rectum. 1966 Nov-Dec;9(6):449-52. PubMed PMID: 5926158.

[2] SAKAKIBARA, R., TSUNOYAMA, K., HOSOI, H., TAKAHASHI, O., SUGIYAMA, M., KISHI, M., OGAWA, E., TERADA, H., UCHIYAMA, T. and YAMANISHI, T. (2010), Influence of Body Position on Defecation in Humans. LUTS: Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms, 2: 16 21. doi: 10.1111/j.1757-5672.2009.00057.x

[3] Russell JGB. Moulding of the pelvic outlet. J Obstet Gynaec Brit Cwlth 1969;76:817-20

[4] Dr B. A. Sikirov's 1987 Study on Hemorrhoids